Bottles from Tasteless Tastings Olympics

Tasteless Tastings: Belated Olympic Edition

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about bourbon.

I’ve been embarrassingly behind on holding this Tasteless Tastings, and I have no one to blame but myself. I’ve had some of these bottles for months, and I’ve tried my hardest not to break into them until I could get some buddies over and do it to it. I invited five friends to join me, and we dove right in, tackling the most in the history of TT. We also had an Olympic theme going and awarded our top 3 with a gold, silver and bronze medal.

So here we are. Without further adieu …

Bottles from Tasteless Tastings Olympics
A stellar lineup indeed.

What are we drinking today?:

Penelope Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a four-grain bourbon from the new-ish Penelope Bourbon folks, and it’s a blend of three bourbon mash bills sourced from MGP in Indiana. The four grains include corn, wheat, rye and malted barley.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

80 Proof | $34.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: It has a nice nose. I like it! It’s got nice legs, too.

Heather: It’s smooth.

Kat: I like how smooth it is, but nothing really jumps out flavor-wise.

Bar Belle: It sure is a mellow little fellow.

Tonya: It’s light and airy. I could sip on this all night.

Elizabeth: I’m not sure I like the bottle because it looks too much like wine.

Zanne: Yes! It looks like a rosé!

Final thought:

A light and refreshing take on bourbon, this standard Penelope release is definitely a gateway whiskey.

Group Consensus:

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.


Silver medal

What are we drinking today?:

Five Brothers Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is the newest release from Heaven Hill that pays homage to the five Shapira brothers who founded the company in 1935. It’s a blend of five ages of bourbon ranging from 5 to 9 years old.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

90 Proof | $59.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: The nose is great on this one, but it kind of burnt me a little on first sip.

Bar Belle: That’s because you chugged it! You’re supposed to let it simmer in your mouth, not just swallow it whole!

Elizabeth: You didn’t pour me enough to truly get a taste. Quit being stingy!

Bar Belle: OK, fine! Here’s another pour.

Heather: I enjoy the rich nose on this one. It’s like you’re inside a rick house.

Kat: I’m getting apricot and citrus. It’s nice!

Heather: It’s an easy drinker for sure.

Kat: It really opened up in my mouth and was refreshing going down.

Bar Belle: Nobody say “That’s what she said,” please.

Final thought:

It’s a great sipping bourbon with the quintessential notes of rich caramel, dark chocolate and baked fruit.

Medal Winner!:

Silver — Second Place!


Puncher's Chance bottle
Bourbon or pirate booty?

What are we drinking today?:

Puncher’s Chance Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a blend of 4-6-year-old Kentucky bourbon and is partly backed by famed sports announcer Bruce Buffer, aka “the voice of mixed martial arts.” We’ll let Buffer explain the name of the product himself:  “A puncher’s chance means that anyone has the potential to succeed, whatever the odds or circumstances, if he or she works for it.”

Give me the nerdy numbers:

90 Proof | $34.99

What do we think?:

Kat: The bottle is not appealing to me. It looks like a rum!

Zanne: It looks like a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream!

Elizabeth: It looks like it came off a pirate ship.

Kat: It drinks young.

Zanne: There’s a subtle hint of burnt tire in this.

Bar Belle: I’m detecting some mustiness here.

Heather: It’s like watered down Irish whiskey.

Final thought:

While most in our panel did not prefer this bourbon, that doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy it. It drinks a little young, but there are some who prefer those flavors of green apple and pear, drizzled with some caramel. This is Kentucky bourbon, after all, so it’s got potential to be your everyday drinker. Note: A 21-year-old crashed our tasting session during this pour, and he not only loved Puncher’s Chance, but he said he’d buy it just because of the cool bottle. So there you go.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to get bought by college dudes named Kyle.


What are we drinking today?:

Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is the 10-year-old version of Michter’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It was aged in a heat-cycled warehouse and is very sought-after by bourbon aficionados all around the globe.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

94.4 Proof | $150

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: This smells MUCH better than the last one.

Heather: I get cherry up front — definite cherry.

Tonya: It has a nice burn … it’s that Kentucky hug they talk about.

Elizabeth: I like the nose better than the taste. It kinda burns.

Bar Belle: Are we drinking the same thing? This is amazing!

Kat: There’s a nice spice at the end, too.

Zanne: I’d like this by a campfire in the autumn. Where can I get this?

Bar Belle: It’s pretty hard to find unless you get lucky at the distillery downtown.

Zanne: Money can’t buy you love when it comes to bourbon.

Final thought:

With notes of cherry, caramel and spice, it’s everything nice you want in a bourbon. At 10 years old, it’s a solid pour that is worth hunting for.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to marry a millionaire.


What are we drinking today?:

Stellum Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a brand from the Barrell Craft Spirits that blends barrels of various ages from Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

114.98 Proof | $54.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: This smells like caramel!

Heather: I thought it would taste heavier than it does.

Zanne: Two thumbs up!

Tonya: I just added some water and that really helped me enjoy it more.

Bar Belle: The water really does open it up a bit. It’s nice!

Kat: I could sip on this while I watch my Eagles win this year.

Bar Belle: I’m sorry, did you mean Bengals?

Kat: No. No I didn’t. Are there still Bengals fans?

Bar Belle: Who Dey.

Final thought:

Not too shabby for a new product. This well-rounded bourbon has some bite, but if you can get past that, you’ll be rewarded with delightful flavors of caramel, cinnamon, vanilla and toffee.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to never be single (because it would be great in a cocktail).


Bronze Medal Winner

What are we drinking today?:

Penelope Barrel Strength Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is Batch No. 6 that is a barrel-strength version of the Penelope Four Grain. Again, the mash bills come from MGP, but the bourbons have been aged a bit longer, at 3.5-4.5 years. The uncut, unfiltered juice won Double Gold in the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Awards, and here it took the third-place Bronze Medal.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

115.8 | $57.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: It noses well.

Zanne: P does not stand for packaging — I still think it looks too much like a wine bottle.

Elizabeth: Wow! I’m really impressed with the rich caramel and butter notes in this.

Kat: I like this! It’s smooth for being so high in proof.

Heather: I’d even say it’s sweet, with a little smack to the rear on the finish.

Bar Belle: This is quite amazing and another reason why I prefer barrel-strength to, say, like 80 or 90 proof. If I want to add water, that should be my decision.

Final thought:

It’s a very well-balanced, high-proof bourbon that doesn’t feel high proof. With flavors of orange peel, fruit and caramel, this is the perfect bourbon to sip by the bonfire.

Medal Winner!:

Bronze — Third Place!


What are we drinking today?:

Stellum Rye

What the hell is it?:

A project by the Barrell Craft Spirits folks, this one blends rye whiskey barrels from Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana to pay respect to the tried-and-true Indiana rye whiskey mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

116.24 Proof | $54.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: Wow! I’m getting maple syrup right up front. It’s delightful! Like a bourbon waffle!

Tonya: Whoa … I might set something on fire with this!

Zanne: I’m liking it with a few cubes of ice. It puts out that fire just a bit.

Bar Belle: No ice! Step away from the ice, Zanne!

Kat: This is a great example of a rye whiskey, and even though the bottle also looks like wine, I think it’s sharp.

Final thought:

This tasty little rye snack would make a wonderful treat on a cold night. With hints of maple syrup and brown sugar and a respectable proof of 116, this is a solid choice to add to your bar.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to stay the night.


Gold Medal Winner

What are we drinking today?:

Old Forester Single Barrel Rye

What the hell is it?:

This is the single barrel, barrel-strength edition of the Old Forester Rye Whiskey.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

124 Proof | $79.99

What do we think?:

Kat: I really like this one. Wow!

Zanne: I’m in!

Tonya: It’s smooth, and it’s toying with my tongue … in a good way!

Heather: It’s the Pop Rocks of whiskey!

Bar Belle: Holy wow! You better cash me outside with this one! Is that how you say the phrase?

Elizabeth: Not really, but we’ll let it slide. This whiskey has a wonderful after taste!

Tonya: You get all the flavor up front, and then the heat on the back. It’s a fun spirit.

Final thought:

It’s the Pop Rocks of whiskey. This one has the flavor, the punch and the subtle flavors of a candy factory sprinkled with black pepper. Although we sampled this one last, it was the obvious winner of the night, proving that good things come to those who wait. We want more!

Medal Winner!:

Gold — First Place!

Old Forester 117 Series Warehouse K

Old Forester serves up another 117 Series, plus Parker’s Heritage 2021 details

Get ready to loosen up those purse strings, y’all, because the bourbon releases will be coming at us full throttle in the next few weeks, leading up to September, aka National Bourbon Heritage Month. Here are two announcements to wet your whistle.

Old Forester 117 Series: Warehouse K

Old Forester 117 Series Warehouse K

Lucky for us, we don’t have to wait until the fall for this one. The second iteration of Old Forester‘s 117 Series will be out Thursday, Aug. 12 — that’s TOMORROW, folks! — at the downtown distillery and your favorite liquor store (if you’re lucky).

The name is “Warehouse K,” and it features a blend of barrels aged on different floors from the famed warehouse. Supposedly, Warehouse K produces some exceptional bourbon and is the stuff of legends among bourbon geeks, similar to the Four Roses Tier 6 lore.

Constructed in 1953, Warehouse K is one of Brown-Forman’s heat-cycling rick houses and is the place where Old Forester plucks most of its Single Barrel expressions from.

“Warehouse K has gained a cult following among bourbon connoisseurs,” said Master Taster Jackie Zykan in a news release. “This blend is a representation across multiple floors and locations within this warehouse, giving a more holistic example of the profile its barrels yield.” 

The 117 Series Warehouse K will be bottled at 110 proof and retail for $49.99 for a 375 ml bottle. The previous expression — “High Angels’ Share Barrels” — was also 110 proof and $49.99. The bottles will go on sale Thursday, Aug. 12, starting at 10 a.m. at the distillery.

Here are the tasting notes according to the news release:

Color: Rich honey.

Aroma: On the nose, creamy chocolate, caramel, and brown sugar lead, with a hint of golden raisin and a foreshadowing of the pepper the finish will unveil. 

Taste: The palate brings with it a full-bodied and rich viscosity, peripheral spice, and a touch of black cherry alongside bitter molasses. 

Finish: The robust yet balanced spice finish completes the story of the well-known complexity which is the K warehouse. 

Parker’s Heritage 2021: 11-Year-Old Heavy Char Wheat Whiskey

Parker's Heritage 2021

For this annual release, you’ll have to wait until September. But I’ve got all the sordid details!

For the 15th edition of Heaven Hill‘s Parker’s Heritage, named in honor of the late Master Distiller Parker Beam, the company is going with an 11-Year-Old Heavy Char Wheat Whiskey.

The bottles come from a batch of 75 barrels that were charred to a level 5 (standard bourbons use a level 3), which will, according to the news release, show how a more intense char allows the liquid to penetrate deeper into each barrel stave and the effects on the resulting flavor.

Count me in! The mash bill consists of 51% wheat, 37% corn and 12% malted barley.

“The Parker’s Heritage Collection is a testament to the distilling legacy at Heaven Hill Distillery and the detailed attention each step of the process receives,” said Susan Wahl, Vice President, American Whiskies at Heaven Hill, in the news release. “We are excited to release the third mashbill in this heavy char series, showcasing the consistency of quality throughout our innovation pipeline. It is in tribute to Parker and his legacy that we continue to support ALS research and patient care with this collection.”

Each year, Heaven Hill donates a portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold to the ALS Association. So far, they’ve donated more than $1 million toward ALS research and will continue raising funds with this bottle.

The Parker’s Heritage will be released in September and retails for a suggested price of $139.99.

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Fall 2021 release

Old Fitzgerald BIB fall edition will be 11 years old

I expect this news release to be one of many that’ll soon flood my inbox — because we’re officially less than a month away from the big Bourbon Release Season! Oh happy days!

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Fall 2021 release
Behold!

The next Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond release will be 11 years old and — as always, since it’s a Bottled-in-Bond product — 100 proof. This is the second time one of the seasonal Old Fitz releases has been 11, the first being the spring of 2018.

If you’re unfamiliar, Heaven Hill releases the fancy Old Fitz BIB decanters every spring and fall, and each iteration differs in age. This wheated bourbon meets the strict requirements of Bottled-in-Bond: the product of a single distillery from a single distilling season, aged a minimum of four years, and bottled at 100 proof or 50% alcohol by volume.

It’ll retail for $110 if you’re lucky to find one in a liquor store or at the distillery. These are highly coveted bottles, of course, so they’ll disappear quickly — like most bottles these days.

If you’d just like to try it, though, you can probably find it behind the bar at places like Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, Taj, Evergreen Liquors (go check out their new NuLu location!), Westport Whiskey & Wine, the new Frankfort Avenue Liquors & Wine, Taste Fine Wine & Bourbons, Justin’s House of Bourbon, and many, many more.

I don’t have the exact date this will be released, but I’ll update this post if I get it. Happy hunting!

Heaven Hill unveils its $19 million Bourbon Experience in Bardstown

Just as Kentucky life is inching its way to back to (semi) normal, we have a new reason to get back out on that Kentucky Bourbon Trail for a brand new excursion: the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience. The $19 million expansion project fittingly opened on June 14, National Bourbon Day.

Heaven Hill barrel
The new Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience held its grand opening on National Bourbon Day. | Photo by Sara Havens

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony held Monday morning, Gov. Andy Beshear proclaimed it National Kentucky Bourbon Day and talked about how happy he was that we could all gather and celebrate such a thrilling occasion in the bourbon industry.

“Kentucky is fully open, and we are excited,” he said. “This new expansion is going to give people one more reason to visit Kentucky.”

Heaven Hill President Max Shapira also announced a new bourbon release — called Five Brothers — that honors his father and his four brothers, who started Heaven Hill in 1935. The 90-proof bourbon is a blend of Heaven Hill’s traditional bourbon mash bill at five different ages, ranging from 5 to 9 years old. The retail on the bottles, which were available in the gift shop, is $59.99.

After the ribbon cutting, guests were free to walk around the new facility and check out all the offerings and experiences. Here’s a rundown of some of them:

  • “You Do Bourbon” — A fill-your-own bottle station where you can rinse, dry, fill and cork your own bourbon from one of four brands.
  • 5 Brothers Bar — Located upstairs, this fancy yet comfy bar will offer cocktails and flights to guests waiting for tours, or somewhere to refuel after a tour. There’s also a nice balcony and an event space as well.
  • Brand Gallery — A huge museum-like space that provides info on all of Heaven Hill’s brands, from Elijah Craig to Larceny to its Bottled-In-Bond products and beyond.
  • 1935 Theater — An immersive video telling the history of Heaven Hill and the Shapira family. It runs every 20 minutes.

It’s important to note that $5 from every You Do Bourbon bottle filled will go to nearby neighbor Bernheim Forest to help with its new Rites of Passage program, an initiative that opens up immersive experiences in nature to young black men and women.

The You Do Bourbon experience will open officially on July 1. And the rest of the new interactive exhibits will be open tomorrow.

Here’s a look at the sights and sips of the ribbon-cutting ceremony:

Square 6 bottle

Meet Square 6, first bourbon released from Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

I don’t know what it is about this new release, but if someone came up to me and asked me to describe Kentucky in one single pour, I would choose Square 6, the first bottled bourbon released from (and made at) Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville.

Square 6 bottle
Square 6 will be sold primarily at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. | Courtesy

The high-rye bourbon recipe sings to my tastebuds. It’s a sipper for sure — don’t be adding anything to this except maybe ice. But at 95 proof, ice isn’t really even needed.

The name Square 6 comes from the plot of land that housed Evan Williams’ first distillery in 1783, which history claims is also Kentucky’s first commercial distillery. The Evan Williams brand, as you know, is owned by Heaven Hill.

At a press conference this afternoon, Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau was eager to share his new release with us, saying, “This is one of my babies. It’s truly a labor of love, and I can’t wait to see what you think.”

Filiatreau included some tasting notes during his presentation, and he offered up some actual ingredients on a plates for us to taste and smell along with. What this bourbon oozes are notes of tobacco, fig and honey, along with a bit of cardamom and cinnamon.

The tobacco smelled absolutely amazing, but the cardamom was a bit overpowering — possibly because I put it in my mouth, and I think we were just supposed to smell it. Oops.

Square 6 bourbon in a glass
It’s quite complex for being only 5 years old. | Photo by Sara Havens

But back to the bourbon. The high-rye recipe is 52% corn, 35% rye and 13% malted barley, and it was distilled right at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which opened in 2013 and makes one barrel per day.

Filiatreau says this first release of Square 6 will be one of many, as they have experimented with at least 12 different mash bills since they opened. This release features bourbon that was aged five years.

For a high-rye recipe, there’s not that harsh bite you might expect. Rather, it’s a balanced potpourri of rich caramel, vanilla, white pepper and a mellow spice, which could be the sixth Spice Girl.

Even Filiatreau said it’s not so much a gut-punch Kentucky hug but rather a nice pat on the back.

About 15 barrels went into this initial release, and when it’s gone it’s gone. But alas, there will be more varieties in the near future. Square 6 retails for $89.99 at the downtown distillery and a few stores in the area.

Angel's Envy Cask Strength bottle

Bourbon sips & scoops: Maker’s, Parker’s, Angel’s, Michter’s and more!

Things are starting to pile up on the Bar Belle desk, and my boss is nowhere to be found! I should have written this sooner and I apologize, dear thirst nuggets.

But alas, here I am with a mound of announcements and a handful of samples. What’s a bourbon journalist to do? Let’s take ’em one at a time.

Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup bottle

Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup bottle

You might see these pop up at your local liquor store this weekend! It’s the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup commemorative bottle, which also helps raise funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

As you know, the Breeders’ Cup will return to Keeneland Race Course Nov. 6-7, so this limited-edition bottle celebrates the partnership between the two entities — as well as Maker’s Mark, which is the official bourbon of the race.

I kinda like the white bottle with the purple wax — it would definitely make a nice show piece on your bar or nightstand. Hey, no judgement here.

Buffalo Trace expands soda line with ginger ale and ginger beer

Freddie's Ginger Ale

If you’ve visited Buffalo Trace Distillery within the last year, you probably noticed Freddie’s Root Beer for sale in the gift shop.

Freddie Johnson is a longtime tour guide — and all around great bourbon ambassador — at Buffalo Trace, so the line is named in his honor.

Word is, they’re expanding the line with ginger ale and ginger beer. These will make perfect mixers for that bourbon you pick up there, or consumed on their own, of course.

The new products should be at the distillery by mid November and will sell for $1.25 a bottle.

New Releases:

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength 2020

Angel's Envy Cask Strength

Despite the craptacular year we’ve had, good things do happen. Case in point, the release of the annual Angel’s Envy Cask Strength.

This biting baby doll will be 120.4 proof and released on Nov. 1 — just in time for the election. (Maybe we’ll be celebrating, or maybe we’ll be drowning our sorrows — who knows.)

There are only 17,400 bottles divided up between all 50 states (for the first time ever), so dust off that hunting gear and get prepared for next week.

I was fortunate to try a sample of this year’s release and can say that it does not sip like 120 juice — it’s quite smooth, and it’s teeth are not as sharp as you’d imagine them to be. There’s a lot of vanilla, caramel and brown sugar up front, but there’s also a nice ripe cherry note in there, as well.

And the finish … ah, the finish: It’s like licking the spoon after Mom made some sugar cookies. I could sip on this all night long.

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength will retail for $199.99.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye

Michter's Toasted Rye

These delectable dudes were released in September, so I’m sorry I’m just now getting to them. You may be able to find a pour of them at your favorite bourbon bar, and I suggest you give them a sip!

The Toasted Rye consists of fully matured Michter’s Single Barrel Rye (at barrel strength) that is then put into a second custom toasted barrel and aged a bit longer.

The result is gorgeous notes of caramel and spice and everything nice. I was also fortunate to receive a sample and will tell you without hesitation that this juice is richer than a cheesecake the Golden Girls are huddled over at midnight.

I love the viscosity in this one, as well. It’s thick and coats my mouth like a North Face. Think of the consistency of a cherry juice — if you buy the right ones, especially Luxardo — and you get the idea.

This limited release is bottled around 109.2 proof and goes for about $85 if you can find it in a store.

Parker’s Heritage 2020: Heavy Char Bourbon

Parker's Heritage 2020

This is the 14th edition of this annual, highly anticipated release, and it’s a 10-year-old bourbon that was aged in a heavily charred (level 5) barrels.

The brand is named after the late Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam, and it raises funds for ALS, the disease Beam passed away from in 2010.

This one is bottled at 120 proof and retails for about $120. And like these other releases, it’ll be hard to find.

I was fortunate to try a sample of this, too, and would describe it as a maple bomb. It’s got a touch of spice and sips easy — I can imagine sipping it next to a fireplace as it gently snows outside.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C920

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

This is the third barrel-proof release from Elijah Craig this year, and it’s the second highest proof — at 132.8 proof.

This seems to be a theme here, but despite the high proof, it sips quite smoothly. It’s got deep flavors of toasted marshmallow, caramel, and I’m even getting some milk chocolate in the sample I got.

This is uncut, 12-year-old bourbon bottled straight from the barrel, as God intended. If you haven’t explored the Elijah Craig portfolio, I’d recommend getting acquainted with it. It’s delicious and pretty darn affordable.

This one retails for around $65.99.

Larceny Barrel Proof C920

Larceny Barrel Proof

This wheated barrel-proof bourbon is also a product of Heaven Hill, like the Elijah Craig above.

Bottled at 122.4 proof, this bourbon is consists of bourbon aged 6 to 8 years and is non-chill filtered.

To me, this is definitely getting better each time I try a new Larceny release.

Since it’s a wheat-based bourbon, it’s a little sweater on the palate and less spicy, but you get those wonderful full-time flavors — think s’mores, campfire and soft baking spices from the kitchen.

This one retails for around $67.99, and I would recommend the barrel proof over the standard Larceny.

Bourbon Brief: Elijah Craig Toasted, Old Fitz, Michter’s 10 and more, oh my!

Folks, I’ve let things pile up on the Bar Belle news desk these past few weeks, so it’s time I get my butt in gear and update you on bourbon releases that might be popping up at your local liquor store — if you’re lucky.

We’re knee-deep in the great Bourbon Release Season, so let’s get to it!

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel

Elijah Craig ToastedI admit, I’m a huge toasted barrel fan, and I love that more and more distilleries are jumping on the toasted bandwagon. The more s’mores-infused flavors we can get into whiskey, the better! And a great toasted finish is just that — marshmallow, caramel, chocolate, soft baking spices, graham cracker.

My mouth is watering.

This new Elijah Craig offering takes fully mature small batch Elijah Craig, and then puts it into new toasted and flash-charred barrels that were air-dried for 18 months.

The 94-proof juice retains that familiar Elijah Craig spice, but the toasted notes of rich caramel, creamy vanilla and marshmallow make it a delightful sip, all the way through the pleasant finish.

It’s like sipping on a liquid version of a Caramel Cream.

This Heaven Hill-produced bottle is priced at a very affordable $49.99.

Old Fitzgerald 14 — Fall 2020

Old Fitzgerald Fall 2020Another from the Heaven Hill rickhouse, this is the bi-annual Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond (BIB) release that comes in this fall at 14 years. The ages for the other releases have been anywhere from 9 to 16, and all of them are delicious trophies most people clamor for because the bottle — and the bourbon — are stunning.

This decanter BIB series started in 2018, making this one the sixth national release. And as the rules state for BIB products, it is bottled at 100 proof.

Old Fitz is a wheated bourbon, but given the mature age of this release, it’s not something you want to serve Grandma before bed. It’s fire, it’s oaky (in the best ways) and it’s frickin’ fabulous!

I received a sample of this whiskey, and I might have to say that this is one of my favorites of the series so far. It’s so well-balanced, the Libra in me is doing cartwheels. It’s breakfast and it’s dessert. At first sip, you get a party of flavor — from baked cherries and black pepper spice to those familiar caramels and thick vanillas.

I would sip this by a campfire if I camped. But I don’t do bugs, so I’ll settle for sipping it in front of a fireplace.

The retail price on this should be around $140, and you might want to go check the gift shop for this one.

Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon & 10 Year Rye

Michter's 10 Year Bourbon and RyeI’m so behind on announcing these two new releases that I should be punished, but since I’m my only boss, I’ll let it slide this time. Each year, the fine folks at Michter’s in Louisville, Ky., release some 10 Year Bourbon and 10 Year Rye. Both are always amazing, tasty products, and naturally, the 2020 iterations don’t disappoint.

The bourbon dropped in May, while the rye came out in July (see, I told you I was behind!), and according to the press release, this will be the only 10-year rye release because, well, everyone knows their juice is good, which means everyone wants it.

“This will be the only release of our 10 Year Rye this year because we continue to be in a position where we need to allocate our whiskeys,” said Michter’s President Joe Magliocco in the press release.

I sampled both of these new releases so much during quarantine that they’re both below half full. (Perhaps that’s why it’s taken me so long to write about it, because I just can’t stop sipping!)

The bourbon is a nice medley of candy corn, baked apples and butterscotch, while the rye has that warming spice up front, followed by sweet and sultry flavors like nutmeg, graham cracker and, of course, that vanilla and caramel from the barrel.

The bourbon retails for about $130, while the rye goes for $160.

Little Book Chapter 4: “Lessons Honored” 

Little Book Chapter 4The 2020 Little Book release is dedicated to Freddie Noe’s father, Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe. Little Book is a blending experiment spearheaded by Freddie, and each edition has been as interesting and tasty as the other.

One time he used Canadian whisky, and another used a blend of older and finer Jim Beam products, as an example.

(For those who don’t know, Freddie Noe is the grandson of Booker Noe, and they say he has a nose and a palate similar to Booker’s — hence his nickname, Little Book.)

This one used three whiskeys: a 4-year-old Kentucky Straight Brown Rice Bourbon, an 8-year-old Kentucky Straight “high rye” Rye Whiskey, and a 7-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

I didn’t get a sample of this one, but the tasting notes in the press release say: “full-bodied vanilla balanced by notes of rich charred wood and dried cherries.”

The bottle retails for $124.99 and is 122.8 proof.

Rabbit Hole Cask Strength Boxergrail Rye Whiskey

Rabbit Hole BoxergrailRabbit Hole has just announced a new Founder’s Collection series with the launch of this limited-edition Cask Strength Boxergrail Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. The juice is 114.6 proof and 6 years old.

“With this and future Founder’s Collection releases, we will hand select barrels that embody perfection,” explained Rabbit Hole founder Kaveh Zamanian in a press release. “These ‘honey barrels’ will be bottled in numbered editions and offered at cask strength to ensure that connoisseurs experience the liquid as it’s meant to be, untouched.”

I’d love to get a taste of this, because I can imagine it’s even better than their standard Boxergrail. But I’m gonna have a hard time finding it, as there are only 1,315 bottles being released. Yikes!

The bottle will retail for $195, and if you want to throw your name into a lottery that’ll be drawn on Sept. 24 for a bottle, click here.

Whitesnake Angel's Envy

New releases: The Angel’s Envy Tawny Port Finish is old and sexy, plus say hi to Elijah Craig rye

Whitesnake Angel's Envy

A tale of two Tawnys.

Here I go again on my own. Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone. And I’ve made up my mind. I ain’t wastin’ no more time …

Those, my millennial friends, are lyrics to a kick-ass ’80s song by hairband Whitesnake, and in the video, which they actually played on MTV back in the day, there was pin-up goddess Tawny Kitaen, rolling around half-naked on the hood of a muscle car.

It’s a beautiful piece of pop culture art stamped in time.

And my brain, which is forever stamped in all things ’80s and ’90s, immediately drew parallels to the video when I first heard about the new Cellar Collection from Angel’s Envy, which is finished in tawny port casks. Sure, Tawny is an unusual name, so you can understand why I automatically pictured an Angel’s Envy bottle frolicking on top of a car.

But when I took that first sip, there were way more similarities between the two beauties than just the name. They’re delicious. They’re rich. Their deep, auburn color teases, taunts and tantalizes with every sip. And on the other end of the spectrum, they’re both old — as am I.

Let me get my mind off that car and just focus on the bourbon for a minute. I was fortunate to stop by the Angel’s Envy Distillery last week for a top-secret media get-together announcing the new release. Of course they made us keep it a secret until now, so I apologize that I couldn’t spread the good news earlier.

Let me give you the quick details: The release is the second in the Cellar Collection (the first was the Oloroso Sherry Cask finish) and features 10-year-old bourbon that was finished for 10 months in tawny port casks. It is bottled at 111.6 proof and will retail for about $249.99. The limited run of just 5,400 bottles will be available beginning Feb. 8 at select retailers in Kentucky, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Tennessee, as well as at the distillery in downtown Louisville

Angel's Envy Tawny(If you’re a member of the free-to-join 500 Main club, you’ll be getting an email soon about being able to purchase it in advance.)

Anyway, during the short tasting experience, we heard from Angel’s Envy Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Wes Henderson, Production Manager Kyle Henderson and Lead Distillery Operator Andrew Henderson about the limited release.

Wes Henderson opened the discussion by explaining the concept of the Cellar Collection. Basically, there’s no set date or expectation of when something new has to be released. It comes down to quality — and the wow factor.

“I don’t believe in innovating just to innovate,” Wes said. “We didn’t release this just to have something out there. It’s very different than anything we’ve released before. We set out to make the best whiskey we can, and this one, I believe, is very much in line with what my father (bourbon legend Lincoln Henderson) preferred — more subtle, not in-your-face.”

Kyle Henderson — Wes’ son, Lincoln’s grandson — added that currently, there are about 17 more experiments going on at the Bacardi-owned distillery.

“Those include all the dumbass ideas that won’t see the light of day,” he joked.

Now, as you know, regular Angel’s Envy is finished in ruby port barrels between three to six months. So how is tawny port different? For one, tawny port, which is made from red grapes, is aged longer in oak casks — giving it a golden-brown color. Port, in general, is a type of sweet wine made in Portugal.

So how does the Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Tawny Port Barrels taste?

It’s peppery, it’s nutty, it’s fruity. It’s like throwing a handful of Werther’s Originals into a blender with about two Red Hots. It’s everything you want a finished bourbon to be, yet its flavors are unfamiliar but intriguing. It’s like doing a cartwheel on the hood of a car and having knees that’ll stick the landing. (I miss those knees.)

I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not that I’m not obsessed with Tawny Kitaen. It’s the price tag — a whopping $250! I get it — it’s a lot.

Maybe you don’t want to shell out that much for a bottle of bourbon, but it would be worth the search at a bar or restaurant or liquor store’s tasting bar for a sample. Or just bite the bullet and buy a bottle. Keep it in your private stash, hidden away from the wife or the husband, right next to your Whitesnake cassette tapes.

_____________________________________________

Elijah Craig releases a rye

Elijah Craig rye

Say hi to Elijah Rye.

As a bourbon writer, I run to the mailbox as soon as I get home every day. Unfortunately, I encounter more bills than fun packages, but every now and then, I get something truly special.

Case in point — a box from Heaven Hill that contained a sample of the new Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey and a loaf of rye bread baked by Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll himself!

Of course I popped that bottle open as soon as I could and enjoyed the sweet and spicy nectar. But I also savored the bread and ate a slice every morning for breakfast until it was gone. One day I even made a sandwich with two slices — and it was wonderful. Thanks, Conor!

rye sandwich

Turkey on rye.

But back to the rye. The mashbill includes 51% rye, 35% corn and 14% malted barley, making it pretty smooth for a rye whiskey with that much corn in it.

I could sip this neat all day, but I also believe it’ll be quite tasty in a cocktail like an Old Fashioned, because that rye won’t take any shit from the sugar.

And for those still in shock from the Angel’s Envy sticker price, this is much more affordable. Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey will be released this month in North Carolina, South Carolina, George and Oregon — What? No Kentucky?!?! — and retail for $29.99.

I suppose since you can’t get it here, you all can stop by and sample some of mine.

Just like Conor’s bread, fine whiskey was meant to be shared.

Bar Belle's Tasteless Tastings bar

Tasteless Tastings: Deck the Halls 2019 holiday edition

Tasteless Tastings bottles of bourbon

Let the tastings begin!

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample.

This month’s iteration is holiday-themed, so let’s deck those halls with the bowels of someone named Holly. Let’s get to it …

 

What are we drinking today?:

Two Bitch BourbonTwo Bitch Bourbon Eureka Gold

What the hell is it?:

Straight out of Eureka, Nev., this straight bourbon whiskey (aged at least two years) comes from a new Nevada-based spirits company named after the owners’ love for their two newfound dogs. Along with this product, named for the old Wild West town the owners reside in, they offer the Pack Leader Reserve and a Small Batch with Bite. Apparently, Eureka sits in the Diamond Mountains on the “loneliest road in America.” So what else is there to do than to make bourbon?

Give me the nerdy numbers:

92 proof, $45

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: I can tell this isn’t an older bourbon because of its light color. It’s a straight bourbon, which means it’s at least two years old. So there’s that.

Kat: I can sip on this one! It’s light and subtle.

Heather: It’s the color of beer.

Tracy: It’s not memorable, but it’s OK. I mean, I’m not going to stop talking to friends and go, “Oooooh, wow!” But it’s something I could sip on all night long and not become overwhelmed.

Elizabeth: (Added a few drops of water) Water changed it for the better actually. You can actually smell something now.

Amber: Yes! I detect vanilla, and it’s sweet! It’s definitely a smooth bourbon — doesn’t burn, goes down well.

Bar Belle: That’s what she said?

Tracy: It would be good in cocktails because it’s sort of nondescript and won’t overpower.

Elizabeth: This could be the White Claw of bourbon.

Bar Belle: They also sent me a sample of the Small Batch product, and it was so delicious, I’m keeping it all to myself. Sorry not sorry.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A standard, frosted ball ornament

Heather: I think you all are describing an ornament I made in kindergarten — I made it from a used pantyhose container! I think I still have it.

_____________________________________

 

What are we drinking today?:

Knob CreekKnob Creek Quarter Oak

What the hell is it?:

This new, limited-edition release uses a secondary finishing approach, taking fully mature Knob Creek and then finishing it for a minimum of four years in a quarter cask (a smaller-sized barrel). This juice is then blended with regular Knob Creek for this product.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

100 proof, $49.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: This is a new release from Knob Creek, which is made by Jim Beam. Think “double oaked,” and you get the idea. I’m a big fan of finished whiskeys for sure.

Tracy: Wow! We’re moving up the tree with this one! It’s nice. I like it!

Kat: This isn’t bad at all! It’s well-rounded, smooth.

Heather: I like this one, too! It starts off with a little heavier vanilla and then finishes off spicy. It’s the perfect bourbon for sipping in the winter.

Amber: The nose reminds me of fruit — dark cherry.

Bar Belle: It’s definitely a cherry bomb. Wow! I could sip on this for days if I didn’t have a job.

Heather: It would make a lovely Manhattan.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A fancier ornament on the tree — possibly a snow globe featuring a bowl of cherries sprinkled with brown sugar.

_____________________________________

 

What are we drinking today?:

Heaven HillHeaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond

What the hell is it?:

This Bottled-in-Bond product was recently launched — or somewhat re-launched — by Heaven Hill, replacing the 6-year-old BIB product it had on the market for about $9.99 until 2018. The BIB label actually dates back to 1939 for Heaven Hill, when the company first released it and it shot to the No. 1 best-selling bourbon in Kentucky. Now, with a fancier bottle and label and an extra year of aging, the BIB label is a solid choice — although some longtime Heaven Hill BIB fans lament the uptick in price.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

100 proof, 7 years old, $39.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: This is Heaven Hill’s latest Bottled-in-Bond product, which replaced a cheaper version that was discontinued last year. The Bottled-in-Bond Act was passed in 1897 to kind of guarantee that what you were buying was legit.

Let me read you what Wikipedia has to say: To be labeled as bottled-in-bond or bonded, the liquor must be the product of one distillation season (January–June or July–December) by one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 (U.S.) proof (50% alcohol by volume). The bottled product’s label must identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. Only spirits produced in the United States may be designated as bonded.

Elizabeth: Whoa! This is like a sucker punch!

Amber: It has such a sweet smell, and then it bites you when you’re not looking.

Tracy: Holy hell, Batman! This will put some hair on your chest!

Kat: Shooo!

Elizabeth: This is like one of those candles on your birthday cake that won’t blow out! It just keeps burning and burning.

Heather: I’d put it in eggnog.

Bar Belle: I like the spiciness. It’s definitely characteristic of the Heaven Hill mashbill. Not everything can be covered in caramel, you all! Embrace the spice, because it’s nice.

Tracy: This is one I’m not going to finish, if that tells you anything.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A Snoopy driving a firetruck ornament … maybe that even makes a siren noise when you push a button.

_____________________________________

 

What are we drinking today?:

291291 Colorado Rye Whiskey

What the hell is it?:

This single barrel rye whiskey was made by Distillery 291, based out of Colorado Springs, Colo. It is distilled in a copper pot still and aged in American white oak barrels for one year, and then finished with aspen staves. Distillery 291 is a small batch whiskey-making company owned by distiller Michael Myers (not the one with the creepy mask), who aims to replicate the taste, smell and folklore of the Wild West. This rye whiskey was recently named World’s Best Rye by the World Whiskies Awards and has received similar accolades from all over the world. It is now available in Kentucky.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

101.7 proof, $59.99, Mashbill: 61% malted rye, 39% corn

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: Rye whiskey from Colorado! And there is no barley in the mashbill, which is uncommon.

Amber: This smells smokey, almost like a Scotch.

Elizabeth: Or feet.

Kat: It definitely smells different. But it doesn’t bad.

Heather: It has a malty taste.

Tracy: Well, it tastes better than it smells, that’s for sure. It’s like fruitcake!

Kat: I really like this!

Bar Belle: Me, too! It’s different than a high-rye bourbon, but displays a great smoothness and finishes nice. I want to chew on it.

Elizabeth: If you can get past the nose, it’s actually quite tasty.

Heather: I’m not sure I’d put this in a cocktail, but I could sip on it.

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A pine cone with glitter on it.

_____________________________________

 

What are we drinking today?:

Larceny Barrel ProofLarceny Barrel Proof

What the hell is it?:

Although Larceny Bourbon has been out now since 2012, this is the first new line extension of the Heaven Hill product. Larceny is a wheated bourbon usually bottled at 92 proof. And now, HH is releasing it with a barrel-strength proof. In fact, the bottle we sampled was 123.2 proof, but you’d never know from its crazy smoothness and sweet finish. I’ve liked Larceny since it was launched, but I never loved Larceny — if that makes any sense. However, after tasting the Barrel Proof, I’m smitten of the brown nectar that flows from the pearly gates of Heaven’s Hills. Shoo. I guess we should see what the others say …

Give me the nerdy numbers:

123.2 proof (proof will vary from bottle to bottle), $49.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: I hope you all are ready for some heat!

Amber: Wow! I like that. It pops, and then it’s smooth.

Kat: This is my favorite so far! Tastes like candy!

Amber: I agree. Right now it’s the topper on the tree!

Tracy: This is the bomb. A caramel bomb. It would be good to sip on by the fireplace.

Heather: (Added a few drops of water) It’s actually better neat. The water increased the burn.

Bar Belle: I feel like I’m licking a pole of caramel taffy. I wouldn’t even mind if my tongue got stuck to it at this point. It’s amazing how proof can make such a difference! This Barrel Proof just exceeded my expectations of this brand and elevated it to a whole new level! I mean, I feel like I know who let the dogs out now.

Tracy: Who? Who-who-who?

Bar Belle: John E. Fitzgerald, of course. The guy this bourbon is named in honor of. He was one of the only dudes with a key to the rickhouse back in the day, and they say a few of the better-tasting barrels would always come up a little short from year to year. They’d call them the “Fitzgerald barrels” because the juice was always quality, but also, there wasn’t much of it left. Can you blame him?

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: This isn’t an ornament, it’s for when you’re watching the tree after it’s been decorated, sipping on a great bourbon while the fireplace crackles behind you.

_____________________________________

 

What are we drinking today?:

Skrewball WhiskeySkrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey

What the hell is it?:

Huh? Peanut butter whiskey? Yes, you heard that right. Peanut butter-flavored whiskey made — where else — than nutty California. There isn’t much about the distilling process on the label or website, but what we do know is it’s an invention by a married couple from Ocean Beach, Calif., who owned (or maybe still own) a bar. It’s also made with real peanuts, so if you have an allergy, this whiskey won’t cure all that ales you.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

70 proof, $26.99

What do we think?:

Tracy: (Takes a whiff) Well, I do smell the peanuts! (Takes a sip) Oh no! No no no!

Amber: It’s like drinking peanut butter.

Kat: I actually might enjoy sipping this on ice.

Bar Belle: It’s weird. Too syrupy and fake flavor-y to me. But I’d be willing to try it in a cocktail of some sort. Something with either jelly or chocolate.

Heather: Might be good in a chocolate shake — like a boozy milkshake.

Elizabeth: It would it be the popcorn ball ornament!

Amber: It’s the pickle ornament kids try to find in the tree! You know, the only one that’s different from all the others.

Heather: Come the first of the year when the diet starts, I might want to dip celery in it.

Bar Belle: That’s not a bad idea.

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: It’s actually the drink of choice on the Island of Misfit Toys.

Heaven Hill rooftop rendering

A sneak peek of Phase 1 of Heaven Hill’s newly renovated Bourbon Heritage Center

Heaven Hill rooftop rendering

This is a rendering of what the rooftop bar and restaurant will look like. | Courtesy of Heaven Hill

Big things are ahead for the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, and Tuesday night I got to see firsthand just what they’re up to over there — and enjoy a few handfuls of cheese.

If you haven’t been in a few months, you likely didn’t realize the gift shop and tasting rooms were under construction. But because of my bottle-hunting ways, I had been by the Heritage Center a few times looking for some one-eyed whiskey unicorns. The staff always greeted me with a smile and would say, “Pardon the construction, and no, we just sold our last unicorn of the day.” Just my luck.

But Tuesday night, the plywood came down and the dust was swept up to unveil a brand spanking new expanded retail space and three quaint and cool tasting rooms that all have a different theme tied to Heaven Hill’s brands of bourbon.

You can expect the Fitzgerald Room, inspired by Old Fitzgerald Bourbon and referencing the man who often “sampled” from the barrels he was paid to protect. This is also where Larceny Bourbon got its inspiration from — Fitzgerald, larceny, stolen bourbon … you get the idea!

Another new room is The Library, a tasting room that honors the Father of Bourbon, Elijah Craig. There’s a 26-foot-long table with cozy chairs and nuanced decor that all relates back to Craig’s life and legacy.

The other rooms is The Founders Room, inspired by the Shapira family behind Heaven Hill.

These new renovations are part of Heaven Hill’s $17.5 million investment in the expanded Heritage Center, and the staff also showed us a few sneak peeks of what’s to come in Phase 2. What might that include? How about a gorgeous second-floor outdoor balcony attached to a rooftop restaurant and bar. Or a “You Do Bourbon” interactive experience where you get to choose and then fill your own bottle of bourbon. Or about about two installations: the Elijah Craig Exhibit and the Larceny Exhibit.

They promised there is much more up their sleeves, and I’m looking forward to watching these Phases roll out … like a barrel of Elijah Craig rolling into my living room come Christmas Day. Hey, a girl can dream!

All the phases should be complete by spring of 2021.

So next time you’re in Bardstown, stop by Heaven Hill and check things out! The expanded gift shop is worth the 40-minute drive from Louisville alone.

Here’s a look at some photos I took and some renderings: